You may have heard how Wal-Mart posted a slight decrease in sales recently, but it didn't seem to reflect what was going on in the rest of the retail industry (many times, the performance of a business as large as WM can be accurately used to reflect retail as a whole). This time, it just seemed to be WM having the problem, and it may well have been unique to them.
Over the weekend, Instapundit posted on the subject, and he received a lot of email about it. One reader may have pretty much nailed down the problem, and it dovetails nicely with my own views:
I have an alternate idea of what is happening to Wal-Mart. They have devalued their brand: Wal-Mart is a place to go for the necessities of life. Target has pulled a brilliant move in placing itself as a more prestigious and higher quality brand covering the same economic demographics.
...Target represents an place that is far more comfortable to shop in: the aisles are clean and wide and there are usually enough cashiers to ensure a speedy experience. The cost is marginally more but is more then worth the psychic cost of going to Wal-Mart.
Many others have hopped into the fray since then, noting that Wal-Mart may well have brought these problems on itself by going for the lowest common denominator. My favorite quote comes from this posting by Matt Stokes of mattcrash.blogspot.com: "Those of us with the option don't want to shop at Wal-Mart; not out of opposition to red state values or capitalism. We shop at Target because our feet don't stick to the floor while walking down the frozen food aisle." As Instapundit would say, read the whole thing, and check out the quotes, which are often hilarious--sometimes painfully blunt, but pretty much on target (pun intended?).
I couldn't have said it better myself. It always seems to me that they've taken some small Third World country, dropped it into the middle of a nice American neighborhood and called it a "supercenter." The dirtiness of the place, the merchandise strewn everywhere, the kids running wild all over the store...sorry, I'll pay a few more bucks for the privilege of a comfortable shopping experience across the street. I sent some of those links to Mom and Dad, just to show them that it's not just me.
Web hijinks, or creative marketing? Speaking of Target, their website has had some really weird stuff on it lately, including marijuana, a prostitute, and something else I won't mention by name on this site. Did they get hacked, or is it just a brilliant-but twisted marketing scheme? Whatever the deal is, it sure has brought a lot of traffic to the site this week.